Editorial: Cap on pay for U.S. private defense contractors appropriate
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 22:02
Life in America is expensive. The worst part is it gets more expensive every year. Most companies have a policy to supply cost of living raises. These raises aren’t rewards for excellent work ethic, incentives to work harder (because of work ethic) or accompanying promotions. They’re simply a recognition that the cost of living is going up, and the income of our work force needs to reflect that. So as the cost of living goes up, so does the average wage.
The average unemployment rate in the United States is 7.8 percent (which doesn’t account for specific states, cities, ethnicity, etc.). That’s quite a lot of people that are out of work and not earning a regular income. House Republicans made this argument on Feb. 15 when they voted to extend the pay freeze (begun in 2010) on federal workers for another nine months. After all, the Federal Government is an employer, so like many companies across the country, we should have the power – and in some cases the responsibility – to freeze cost of living increases while so many Americans must go without any income at all. It’s a sensible measure that should be recognized as a “solidarity” measure for the American people. It’s a symbol that, hey, private sector workers, the Federal Government feels your pain.
But these policies always have a way of embarrassing lawmakers when we compare them to other policies. Take for example, the Republican interest in securing anything and everything defense related. A common Democratic theme in budget cutting is the willingness to compromise by cutting welfare programs in addition to cutting (overblown) defense spending. But “compromise” has become a dirty word across the aisle and the defense budget is seldom on the table for discussion.
Which brings us to private defense contractors. As there should be, there is a cap on how much of the budget can be spent on private defense contractors (for example, the infamous Halliburton). But the cap is set at no less than $763,000. At over three-quarter of a million dollars, the mercenary budget is almost twice that of the president’s, constitutionally set at $400,000.
Last December, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced a measure into a defense authorization bill that would cap private defense contractor salaries at $230,700. But that measure was thrown out before the bill was finally passed. The final version of the bill simply says Congress promises to study the contractor pay cap. The diplomatic version of saying, “We’ll talk about it later.”
So what’s the message here? If you’re a federal employee, you’re making a sacrifice for the good of the American people. If you’re a defense contractor from the private sector, keep in mind, these are not American soldiers, you can make hundreds of thousands off American taxpayers. That’s not right. Defense contractors should have to make sacrifices just like the rest of the country. Solidarity is supposed to include all of us.